Disturbing

Caution: This post suggests mistreatment of a child.


I drove all the way to JCPenney to get something.
I came all the way back empty-handed.
18 miles each way.
I barely even looked at the racks.
Here’s what happened.

I ENTERED THE STORE and heard a child crying. It came from way over on the opposite side of the store, but I heard it loud and clear.

The closer I got to the department I needed, the louder the crying got. Finally I came around a corner and saw a little girl, maybe 18 months old, red-eyed, tears streaming down her cheeks. A young woman was browsing through racks close by.

When the little girl saw me, it startled her slightly and broke her crying jag. I smiled and gave her a little wave. She stared at me. I walked more slowly. Her eyes followed me. I was tempted to stop or speak to her, but I didn’t want to freak out the mother….or the child by approaching or lingering.

I passed by them. When I moved beyond the girl’s view, she started crying again. I was about to turn and go back, but just then the woman yelled, “Stop it!” I heard a smack and then the child crying even harder than before.

In that moment, I was completely paralyzed.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I left the store. Quickly. Sure, in the hours since, I’ve thought of several things I might have done, but in the moment, it was paralyzing.

What would have been the thing to do?
What if we all run?

About Marilyn

Reading, thinking, listening, writing and talking about faith, creativity, ESL for refugees, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. Cheez-it fan. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. Thank you so much for reading.
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6 Responses to Disturbing

  1. bethhavey says:

    Marilyn, it is always hard to know what to do. Maybe next time you could say: Maybe she’s just tired and wants to go home. You must be tired too because she can’t stop crying.

    That might break the cycle of crying for that time, but sadly there are probably lots of others. Beth

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  2. Sharon O says:

    Such a difficult topic, I think because so much abuse has taken place it is good to act on ‘suspicion’ rather than let it go. Perhaps it would have been good to notify someone in the store but then sometimes the child gets it worse later.
    My thought is always “if they act like that in public you wonder what they do in the privacy of their own home”. That is a tiny one to be under such difficult conditions and the child can’t do anythin about it.
    She might have been tired, hungry, a messy diaper, anything could have been the problem. That is really sad.

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  3. Charlotte Cyphers says:

    Oh Marilyn. What a sad way for the day to go. For both you and the child. There is no easy answer here. It’s sad that as a country we feel free to step in and stop pet abuse but a case of child abuse leaves us paralyzed.

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  4. Annie says:

    I get very sad Marilyn when I think of little ones who are unhappy and mistreated…so sad there are sometimes no adequate words. Pray for them, just pray for them that God will send an angel to minister to the mum and little girl… you were her angel there for a moment…maybe she has a kind Grandma or Aunty that gives her hope. Prayers are sometimes all we can do, but I agree perhaps engaging the mother in conversation might have helped….I always wonder if we should have a card like a business card with words of hope written on it to hand to people sometimes? Perhaps the phone number of a church or helpline maybe? I am understanding your dilemma and sadness.

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  5. charitysingleton says:

    Oh Marilyn, I don’t know what I would have done. A couple of days ago, I heard one of the neighbor kids hitting their new puppy so hard the puppy was squealing. I watched, but didn’t want to get involved. Then, I saw the little boy – he was maybe 10 – suffocating the dog and punching him. I went out and confronted him. The beating stopped. I wondered then if I stood up for a dog more than I would have stood up for a child.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

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  6. Belinda says:

    I’m ashamed to admit that I have been that mother in the past. Now a grandmother, I wouldn’t think of striking a child, but as a young mom there were many moments of frustration when I expected too much of my children and I smacked them in frustration. I have talked to my son; my first born; about how much I regret some of my parenting. He was colicky, high strung and clingy and I was such a young parent. I am grateful that love covers a multitude of transgressions. My children knew I loved them. I say all this to say that I can’t judge that woman. I hope that she loves her child and that this was just an outburst in frustration and tiredness. My children turned out to be beautiful human beings in spite of all of our mistakes (both of us were far from perfect parents but we would lay down our lives for our children or grandchildren.)

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